Honestly, I’m surprised that Creative Assembly waited as long as they did to try their hand at the Warhammer license, after all, it seems like Games Workshop is willing to give the license to just about everyone. You would think that the setting of Warhammer would be a perfect place for a strategy game, and while many games have come out under the 40k license – it’s only been recent that a larger amount of fantasy games have been making themselves known, and Total War: Warhammer or Total Warhammer (that’s what we all call it, I don’t understand why they didn’t just change the name) is the biggest one yet.
Total War: Warhammer takes place at a point where the realms have nearly fallen apart and the many factions that still exist work to rebuild their lands. Within the campaign, you can play as four different factions, each with their unique story and campaign goals.
The Empire, a massive Human civilization that models that of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dwarfs, stout warriors from the World’s Edge Mountains who seek to rebuild their once mighty Empire, and the Orcs from the arid badlands who seek nothing more than endless violent conflict. Finally, you have the Vampire Lords, ancient families of vampires who lead massive armies of undead against the realms of the living.
Also, for those who pre-order (or assuming they purchase) there is a fifth faction, the Warriors of Chaos, who seek the domination of the Old World in service to the Gods of Chaos, whose breath echoes from an unholy dimension known only as “The Warp.”
For those of you are not familiar with the Total War franchise, the game is split into two sections, the first is real-time combat, where you set up your armies beforehand and then duke it out with your opponent for up to an hour. The one thing that Total War has always done right is it’s ability to make battles look fantastic. While troops move within your respective group when it comes to actual combat they will all fight together, and the camera allows you to get right down into the action and watch from ground view as hundreds of individual models stab, cut, and shoot each other on the battlefield.
When it comes to creating a fight that feels massive, no one does it better than Creative Assembly. Plus, the feature to speed up and slow down time allows for you to make quick decisions that save your heroes and allow them to fight another day. Each faction has their benefits and drawbacks which ensure that no two armies will play the same. For example, the Vampire Lords have strong melee units, but lack any ranged units, and the Dwarfs have strong ranged and melee units but lack any cavalry units (unless helicopters count?). This allows you the build up armies unique to the enemy you are fighting so that you will always have the upper hand.
However, the combat is not perfect, and off the top of my head, I can think of two problems I have with it. The ranged units feel a bit overwhelming at times, especially those that are mounted, as they can shoot at your units and as you approach them they immediately turn and run away until you stop chasing them just to shoot at you again. This isn’t me saying that the AI is a problem, if anything it’s a nice step up from previous Total War games. It’s just that these particular units are very hard to deal with and if approaching you en masse, can make a battle a lot less fun to fight.
The other issue with combat lies in Total War: Warhammer’s two sided blade: the heroes. Heroes obviously are not new to Total War, these generals have existed for as long as I can remember, but I never remember them being as much of a gamechanger as they are now. Heroes can be recruited and start at level one, and as they fight battles, they level up and gain new skills. They also have the ability to find items after battles that can increase their power even further.
While this is a feature I absolutely adore, it also makes these heroes one man killing machines that can almost fight entire battles on their own, and in some cases, can even be the sole reason you win or lose a battle. I’m not sure what Creative Assembly can do to alleviate this issue, but as it stands now, having five groups of archers attacking one Orc hero is not a cost effective way to deal with the situation. Don’t even get me started on Grimgor Ironhide.
The other half of Total War is a turn-based map, which allows you to recruit and move your troops around the map, as well as research technology, perform diplomacy (never barter with an Orc), and increase the strength of your cities. If you’re a veteran of the Total War franchise then you will not be confused by many of the games features, most of the game has similar features of the previous Total War games coupled with a beautiful Warhammer coat of paint.
Your quest log is now the Book of Grudges, and you must work to clear it for wealth and prosperity. Buildings function the same way, in which you build and upgrade them to achieve better bonuses and troop types. Another feature for Total War: Warhammer is the ability to issue commandments to your provinces.
Each province is split into multiple cities and once all the cities are under your control, you can issue a decree to your people.This ranges from raising their taxes by 5% to increasing the birthrate to speed up population growth. These decrees are crucial to your victory. Had it not been for me raising my taxes just before an invasion from the Orcs, I would not have been able to afford and army to fend them off, even just 5% is a huge number.
While I was able to find of a few drawbacks to the real time combat aspect of Total War: Warhammer, I am unable to think of any issue with the turn based strategy, it is by far my favorite part of the game. Sitting back and looking over your empire can fill you with pride as your start of a small one-city empire and expand across the world.
If there are any major complaints to be had with Total War: Warhammer is that the game isn’t optimized the best, I played the game mostly on medium to high settings at about 30 to 40 frames per second. While the game looks great and feels amazing, it can become frustrating to deal with the poor optimization.
One thing most Total War veterans have come to expect from Creative Assembly is a game that doesn’t function as well as it should, but luckily the team is usually quick to get patches out to fix most major issues.
The reason I am unwilling to go into a great deal about this is that I was told beforehand that the copy of the game I was reviewing wasn’t fully optimized. Therefore, I am unable to say whether you’d experience the same issues with the game that I have.
Creative Assembly continues to build a library of strategy games that, while maybe lacking in a few areas out of the gate, will no doubt be refined into the best strategy games of the year. I went into this game knowing exactly what to expect and was happy with what I got.
I honestly can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed Total War: Warhammer, and I can’t wait to run another campaign as the Dwarfs and attempt to rid my mountain tops of the stench of Greenskins. If you’re a fan of either Warhammer or the Total War series this game will not disappoint you in the slightest.
Creative Assembly has shown that they have great respect for the universe that Games Workshop has created and I can’t wait to see what they do with the IP next. Who knows, maybe next time we’ll get a Total War game set in the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium, where there is only war.
Total War: Warhammer was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by Creative Assembly. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Total War has never felt better, Warhammer is the perfect IP for Creative Assembly to work with.
- Battles feel massive with large troop numbers, especially when you’re in a fight with Orcs! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!
- The heroes are a lot of fun as always. Working to level them and get them weapons and armor is a fun and rewarding experience.
- As usual, Total War: Warhammer ship lacking vanilla content, with only 4 campaign factions, or 5 if you include the Warriors of Chaos from the Pre-order. There are many more races in the lore. There are many more races in the game that I fear will be released as DLC. (Where are my Lizardmen or Tomb Kings?!)
- While the game is great, it’s current optimization leaves much to be desired, though I admittedly played a version of the game that according to Creative Assembly wasn’t fully patched.
- Heroes are a fun part of the game, but at times they can feel far too powerful and almost win entire battles on their own.